AUSTIN -- Despite the public health and environmental issues caused by fossil fuel extraction, and in the midst of a public health emergency that has the public’s attention focused elsewhere, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) hosted its biannual oil and gas drilling lease sale on Wednesday. Twenty-two companies bid on 71 tracts, covering more than 390,000 acres of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico, including off the Texas coast.
Across the country, opposition to offshore drilling is widespread among citizens, municipalities, businesses, and local, state, and federal officials of both parties. More than 300 U.S. municipalities and more than 2,000 elected officials have formally opposed it. Offshore drilling threatens marine ecosystems and coastlines through oil spills, waste dumping, and seismic testing. These practices harm people who live nearby, as well as wildlife including fish, turtles, birds, and marine mammals. New drilling also deepens human dependence on fossil fuels, the burning of which threatens public health through air pollution and climate disruption.
Environment Texas is petitioning Congress to cancel all future oil and gas lease sales. The petition, with a rapidly increasing number of signatures, states that “leasing land for oil and gas drilling during this critical time shows a lack of care for the public health of our country.”
In response to Wednesday’s lease sale, Environment Texas’ Global Warming Solutions campaign associate Emma Pabst and TexPIRG’s state director Bay Scoggin released the following statements:
“Oil and gas drilling is unclean and unsafe. From coastlines covered in tar to wildlife struggling to survive in toxic water, we’ve seen the consequences. Yet the government persists in auctioning off our oceans and our wellbeing,” said Pabst. “As we approach the 10th Anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, it’s ironic that we seem to have forgotten the harm that offshore drilling can do to our coastal communities and marine life.”
“Don’t we have enough public health problems? We shouldn’t be facilitating more industry that can contribute to water and air pollution, and other things that can make us sick,” said Scoggin. “From taxpayers’ perspective, Congress is currently investigating BOEM’s leasing practices in the Gulf as operators continue to go bankrupt, leaving behind billions of dollars in oil rigs and subsea pipelines to clean up. That’s unconscionable in normal times. These are not normal times.”
Environment Texas is a non-profit advocate for clean air, clean water and open spaces.
TexPIRG (Public Interest Research Group) is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, advocacy and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful interests that threaten our health, safety, and wellbeing.